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THE SPEED OF DARK by Elizabeth Moon Kirkus Star

THE SPEED OF DARK

By Elizabeth Moon

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-345-44755-7
Publisher: Ballantine

Military-SF novelist Moon (Against the Odds, 2000, etc.) offers a touching account of an autistic man who struggles to cure his condition without changing his self.

Lou Arrendal, a computer programmer at a large corporation, lives alone but has a pretty tight group of friends and belongs to a fencing club. He is also autistic. Although Lou works in a special section of his company (Section A) that’s comprised entirely of autistics, he spends much of his free time with “normals” and is secretly in love with Marjory Shaw, a normal at the local university. Quite a few of the autistics in Lou’s support group resent his spending time with her, seeing it as a form of betrayal and self-hatred. Lou’s supervisor, Peter Aldrin, has an autistic brother, understands their problems, and has been extremely sensitive to the his Section A employees. But his CEO, Mr. Crenshaw, can’t see past the balance sheet and is eager to shut the section down and get rid of the autistics altogether. And he may have found a way. A new drug is said to cure autism, and Mr. Crenshaw wants Section A to take it. Most of them are wary—they suffer from a condition, not a disease, and have good reason to suspect Crenshaw’s motives. Lou is unsure as well, but before he can make up his mind, he faces more immediate threats. Someone has begun stalking him—slashing his tires, then planting a bomb in the car’s engine—and the police make him hide out while they investigate. To Lou it makes no sense at all and confirms his low opinion of the normals. Does he really want to be like them? Or can the exceptions (such as Marjory) make the change worthwhile? Sometimes a life and death struggle is not the hardest kind.

Well-written, intelligent, quite moving. Moon places the reader inside the world of an autistic and unflinchingly conveys the authenticity of his situation.